Political eyes are focused on 17 July by-elections
THE Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered runoff election for Punjab Chief Minister on 22nd July under Article 130, sub section 4, in order to clear the air about who gets to rule Punjab, after by elections, 20 general seats are held.
The Election Commission of Pakistan notifies five PTI candidates on reserved seats. As per the remarks of the Supreme Court, however, until then, Hamza Shahbaz will continue to hold the Chief Executive Office, he also assured a three judges Supreme Court bench he would remain within the confines of the Constitution and the law and avoid harassment or witch hunt of political opponents.
Both Hamza and his opponent, Pervaiz Elahi, lauded the Chief Justice of Pakistan for coming up with a consensus decision.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan also regretted the greatest injury to democratic norms is the absence of an opposition in the National Assembly whose presence was necessary to bring the system back on track.
He also expressed delight when both the warring parties reached a consensus and described it as the dawn of an era where people interest would take precedence over everything.
The Lahore High Court verdict was guided by the Supreme Court ruling given in May in a presidential reference that the votes of dissidents or defecting lawmakers cast against their parliamentary party directives in the election for the office of Prime Minister and Chief Ministers, or money Bill, cannot be counted under Article 63-A of the Constitution.
The Lahore High Court was applying the top Court decision retrospectively when it restored the status quo ante to order a vote recount.
The Lahore High Court decision did not question the validity or legality of the election per se.
Though the detailed judgment is yet to come, the Supreme Court on 1st July apparently invalidated the entire proceedings of the Provincial Assembly and election of the Chief Minister held on April 16 under yet another Lahore High Court order.
That is not all, since the re-election will be held five days after the by polls on 20 seats that have fallen vacant after the de-seat of PTI defectors who voted for Hamza Shahbaz, the new Chief Executive will now be elected by a new, reconstituted House with a changed electoral college.
In my considered opinion there is no provision for this in the Constitution. Perhaps the decision in this case should have been based on merit of the law rather than what is seen to be a compromise resolution of the dispute between the rival parties.
With the latest verdict, the judiciary seems to have unintentionally entered the political arena, which is not desirable.
Politically, the decision is likely to prolong the prevalent uncertainty in Punjab. Punjab has been in the grip of one crisis after another with the fledging Hamza Shahbaz government focusing primarily on its survival.
The crisis has weakened governance in the province, with those in authority unsure of where they stand.
Will the outcome of the upcoming by polls and re-election of the Chief Minister cool political temperature and end the political uncertainty?
its my considered opinion, I see little hope of that happening any time soon as the future of both opponents will be decided by 17 July by-elections.
Besides fixing July 22 as the date for holding a runoff election of the Punjab Chief Minister, the Supreme Court has also directed the Lahore High Court to issue detailed reasons within one week about requiring the Election Commission of Pakistan to notify five PTI candidates in the Punjab Assembly.
According to my information ECP’s Secretariat has notified the same as directed by Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has also declared that during inter-regnum period Hamza Shahbaz will continue serving as the Chief Executive of Punjab.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan also directed the ECP to follow the election laws as well as the code of conduct issued by the ECP in letter and in spirit and refrain from any interference, inducement or influence in the affairs of the executive, local administration, the ECP or indulge in corrupt practices, the use of state machinery, harassment, intimidation against their opposition or their supporters, except to restore law and order.
In the light of the judgment of the Supreme Court, Election Commission of Pakistan has been blessed with full powers according to Article 218.
Now all the stakeholders are looking towards ECP. During the polls, CEC and four members should shift their office to Lahore to supervise the polls.
The polling staff, polling agents and domestic observers should be facilitated as per Election Act 2017. The electoral rolls should also be scrutinized.
—The writer is former Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan and currently Chairman National Democratic Foundation.